Remembering that it took the better part of a decade to fully understand Messrs. Mellon and Fink's strategy in purchasing and how that played out with ownership of the MEC, B&M and D&H, it will be interesting to watch CSX's strategy and behavior unfold. It's too early to know whether this move by CSX is ultimately for the whole PAR system or south of Portland or Waterville, or, how much is defense vs. offense, traffic retention vs. growth, involves an infrastructure or brokered Class 1 deal, or, what markets are targeted.
Some food for thought to munch on during the wait:
-CSX would have to ~double PAR's revenue to match the route mile revenue productivity of their existing system.
-CSX's valuable New England franchise is largely generated from high population density and market share. CN has publicly stated their strategic need to boost traffic on the eastern side of their network and CP has as well and taken a step closer with the purchase of the CM&Q. Important segments of CSX's New England franchise are undergoing evolutionary change with the prospect of growth and new requirements.
-The MA East-West Passenger Rail Study Final Report section 6. "Next Steps and Requirements" finds "the estimated additional capital cost for complying with CSX's design criteria is approximately $1.5 billion". The politics of expanded commuter rail is in transit-oriented development which, In turn, long run pushes freight distribution activity to areas with cheaper land values. Long-term planning estimates show the biggest New England population growth occurring in the area roughly defined by the MA Pike, I-95 and I-91.
-Post-PSR behavior of purchases at CN and CP had at their core big strategic network implications tying into the greater North American rail network and markets. After a period of time there's been some rationalization of the CN and CP purchases matched to their core strategy. Equating this move to extend CSX's network into northern Maine and toward the Maritimes with, say, the strategic impact of CN's purchase of WC seems a bit murky at this point.
-And, perhaps on an inconsequential note though interesting nonetheless, CSX CEO Foote's initial statement about purchasing PAR talks of new efficiencies and market opportunities in one of the most densely populated markets in the US and CSX made an unsolicited end-of-2020 $10,000 donation to the Berkshire Scenic.